Public school food service directors, farmers and others will gather in Cedar Falls today to learn how they can help provide more fresh, locally-grown food to students. Andrea Rissing, with the University of Northern Iowa’s Food and Farm Partnership, is helping lead a day-long workshop on the topic.
She says the benefits of farm-to-school food programs include students eating better tasting, non-processed foods. There’s also an environmental impact because the food isn’t traveling a great distance. “Then we have things like farmer visits (to schools) and farm field trips so students can see how they themselves are involved in the food chain and where their food is coming from and who grows it,” Rissing said.
Some schools even have gardens on school grounds and students grow their own food. Rissing currently coordinates farm-to-school food programs for the Waterloo and Independence School Districts, plus U.N.I.’s Malcolm Price Lab School. She says schools that buy from local farmers may need to pay a little bit more, but that’s not always the case.
“A lot of times, farmers are willing to match what food service directors (pay) their normal or typical source,” Rissing said. “A challenge I’ve heard a lot is finding a local producer who can provide the quantity (of food) needed…especially in bigger schools like Waterloo that serves several thousand meals a day. It’s tough to find that much local produce.”
Find out more about the food partnership here: www.niffp.org